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West Virginia teen donates classic books to Moloka‘i Head Start children

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A West Virginia high school senior donated the classic book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to 20 children at the Molokaʻi Head Start in Kaunakakai.

The books were given this week by Rania Zuri of Morgantown, W. Va., and her Fifty Nifty Head Start book donation project. It is part of the LiTEArary Society, her nonprofit whose mission is to end book deserts for children in Head Start programs nationwide.

  • Twenty keiki of the Molokaʻi Head Start received a classic book as a gift from a West Virginia high school senior. Photo Credit: Maui Economic Opportunity
  • Rania Zuri
  • Head Start children at MEO’s Head Start site in Kaunakakai pose with their new book, a gift from Rania Zuri. Photo Credit: Maui Economic Opportunity

Zuri said in an email that “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” was one of her very favorite books as a child,

“I hope that the Head Start children will enjoy this beloved story as much as I did — and still do,” she said. “I truly believe that certain books can spark a lifelong love of reading and hope to visit Moloka‘i and Maui in the very near future to bring more new books to your Head Start children!”

In selecting the Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start on Molokaʻi, Zuri said she wanted to surprise children in rural and less traveled areas with new books.


“I thought it would be a wonderful way to showcase small Head Start centers and chose Moloka‘i because it is truly such a special place in Hawai‘i that many people don’t get to visit!” she said.

Zuri visited Maui, O’ahu and Hawai‘i Island as a young child and considered flying to Moloka‘i to hand out the books personally.

“I was so very tempted to travel to beautiful Moloka‘i to hand out the books to the keiki, but unfortunately, this is my senior year in high school, and I have so many college applications to finish up this month.”

Fifty Nifty Head Start will select Head Start programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and hand out new Scholastic books. Zuri received the books during an appearance on Good Morning America on July 6.


The show surprised her with a $5,000 gift from the Scholastic Possible Fund at the end of her appearance. Zuri and the members of the youth-led nonprofit decided to spread the 700 pounds of books to the “smallest, most rural areas in each state.”

Prior to receiving the Scholastic gift, the LiTEArary Society had given a new book to every Head Start child in West Virginia and was planning to spread the book-giving tour to all of Appalachia. LiTEArary combined Rania’s Classic Book Club, which she established in middle school, with a library she set up for young immigrant girls in the 9th grade, after learning about book deserts across the country.

Zuri and her mother contacted MEO’s Head Start with her book donation plans in early September.

“We were surprised and so grateful for the gift of books,” said MEO Early Childhood Director Debbi Amaral. “Rania is a young woman who understands the joy and importance of reading, especially at a young age, and possesses that altruistic spirit to help people and change lives, just like MEO’s motto.


“What an outstanding example of a young person who cares for others and takes tangible steps to turn her caring into the reality of bettering the lives of others.”

All 20 children in the program will receive the children’s classic, written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond in 1985. Head Start offers preschool at no charge to low income families and works with 3 and 4 year olds and their families to prepare their children for elementary school.


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